September 29, 2009

All the presidents' dogs

The Clinton cat Socks was abandoned in favor of Buddy the dog, for whom Socks showed considerable hostility during the presidency. President Clinton was said to have made more progress between the Israelis and Palestinians than between the two animals.

FDR's terrier Fala is part of White House pet lore for his unwavering dedication to the wartime president as well as for his supposed hand in turning the election in favor of his master. As the story goes, Roosevelt left him behind in one of the Aleutian Islands and had to turn his warships around to retrieve little Fala, prompting taxpayer criticism and Roosevelt's famous indignant response to the press. (As a side note, Fala is such a great dog name! If I had Fala, I'd make sure I got another one to call Fel.)

And then there are President George W. Bush's pair of terriers, Miss Beazley and Barney, who had their own official dot-gov websites. At a low point Barney bit a reporter, perhaps in response to the kind of press the president was getting at the end of his term. I admit I have spent an insane amount of time looking at their pictures.

There are other pets that are less famous but more unexpected. It's hard to think of LBJ as poetic or restrained, but he had two beagles he called Him and Her. Famously upstanding George Washington owned Drunkard and Tipsy, and the disgraced Nixon not only had Checkers (of Checkers speech fame) but also King Timahoe, Pasha, and Vicky. And in true Camelot style, JFK's daughter Caroline got her very own pony, Macaroni, as well as Zsa Zsa the rabbit and a kennel of dogs. It's no wonder Hoover didn't do so well with that whole Depression thing. Can you trust a man who had two alligators?

Finally, there is Bo, the relatively new Obama dog. Bo has gotten more media attention than any other First Dog, maybe because modern media is so persistent, so everywhere and entirely intent on being inane: does Bo get that he's famous? Are we for cats at all?

Pictures of Bo and his family at the highly addictive Official White House Flickr

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